Wordsworth: A Life in Letters by Juliet Barker - review by Adam Sisman

Adam Sisman

Sacrificed Genius to Respectability

Wordsworth: A Life in Letters


Viking 347pp £25 order from our bookshop

Wordsworth claimed to so dislike the thought of his letters one day being published that, in order to guard against this possibility, he always took pains to make them as bad and dull as possible. Even if he did not intend this claim to be taken seriously, the reader is forced to agree that his letters do not sparkle. He absolutely loathed the act of writing letters himself; and his habit of dictation exacerbated his tendency to long-windedness.

Thus, on the face of it, Wordsworth is not a promising subject for a ‘Life in Letters’, as Juliet Barker confesses in her introduction to this volume. Moreover, Wordsworth and his family seem to have destroyed, or at least not preserved, many of the letters one might most want to

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

OUP Niven

Follow Literary Review on Twitter